Taking to spiritual development is today seen as a way to stress busting and thus bettering the quality of our lives.
This seems to be more relevant in urban living where lifestyle, desires and aspirations are working at cross purposes. People are getting increasingly edgy and short-tempered and social grace is taking a beating.
Treading the spiritual path, the aspirant needs to ensure that he has the correct reference point of beneficiary.
There was a sorcerer in a town in Tibet who would torment people with his black magic. Stories spread of how he could bring down hail and destroy villages with his powers. He would rob and kill people at will. He gained great `respect’ out of sheer fear. After a few years, a great personal tragedy shook him and he decided he would practice this sorcery no more.
In the high mountains lived a lama of repute. He had heard of the deeds of the black magician and was overwhelmed with the suffering the people had to undergo because of him. The sorcerer approached the lama and said to him: “Master, I have been a bad man all thee years. I need to redeem myself. Please help me.” The lama suggested: “Very well, now that you wish to change, you need to change your attitude first! Just as you did all the evil things to people causing them great suffering, thereby deriving great pleasure from it, you are to exactly reverse the process!”
“What do you say, master? I dont understand,” the penitent asked. The lama continued: “Well, just as you did harm to others and derived pleasure, now do good to people and derive happiness. It’s so simple.” The sorcerer got the message and went on to become one of the greatest masters of our time.
We always look at benefit with this viewpoint: “How will i derive benefit out of my practices and actions?” The shift of attitude should be in cultivating a mind that thinks of how others can derive benefit from my practices and actions. The moment shift of the reference point of the true recipient of the beneficiary is made the pathway is yours for gainful merit. This has to be done willingly and in happiness, otherwise we will accrue negative karma.
The teacher becomes the compassionate one who gives direction. The rest is up to us, to translate to action willingly, understanding why it is necessary to do so. The shift in attitude, in the point of reference of the true beneficiary of actions undertaken, is necessary for all those in public life, too, like administrators and politicians. Then the results would be of great common benefit.
Summarising everything into a single verse, the greatest teacher of Mahayana and Indian scholar, Shantideva said:
“All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others,
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.
Tathagatha realization to you!”
Tathagatha refers to one who has walked the path to full awakening and so reached the end of suffering and is released from life-death cycle. The implication is that the path is open to all who would follow it. In later Mahayana Buddhism, Tathagatha came to mean the essential buddha nature found in every sentient being.